Great River Bluffs State Park (Minnesota) 23-Aug-2022

From Beaver Creek, we drove through La Crescent, Minnesota to Great River Bluffs State Park. The primary attractions at this park are big views of the Mississippi River and Lake Onalaska from six overlooks. Only one of these overlooks, King’s Bluff, is any distance from a parking lot. The 2.5 mile (4.0 km) out-and-back trail to this bluff is also the Hiking Club route, so King’s Bluff became our goal.

At the trailhead
Starting out
Through a pine plantation
Color in the forest

One unique thing we did see along the trail (and hadn’t seen before) were several Shagbark hickory trees. This part of Minnesota is apparently at the northwestern edge of their natural range.

Past Shagbark hickory trees
A holey tree

The walk out to King’s Bluff was mostly level on an old double-track road through oak-hickory and maple-basswood forests (and a remnant pine plantation) without much in the way of views. These didn’t start until we passed a restored prairie just before the overlook and were, of course, big at the overlook.

The view from the restored prairie just before the overlook
King's Bluff Overlook, Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota
At the King’s Bluff overlook
King's Bluff Overlook, Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota
The Mississippi River & Lake Onalaska (L), with the North Overlook (R)
And back through the forest…

The view from King’s Bluff was good but, judging from the map, some of the other, more accessible overlooks might offer closer views of the river and the lake. It is possible to connect these overlooks via a network of trails, starting from where we parked. Unfortunately, our lengthy (but very enjoyable) involvement with Beaver Creek earlier in the day had used up the time we might have had to explore more at Great Bluffs. 😪 So, reluctantly, we returned to Rochester for dinner and sleep – to ready ourselves for the third, and last, day of this bout of state park questing. 😁


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